The planet has witnessed a heartbreaking number of species go extinct, with many of them vanishing before humans even knew of their existence. However, the term “endling” is used to describe the last-known individual animal of a species, particularly when the creature is held in captivity. Let’s take a look at some of the most famous endlings and what led to their extinction.
One of the famous endlings is a web-toed Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog named Toughie, who died in captivity in 2016 at Atlanta Botanical Garden. Fernandina Island tortoise species was presumed extinct for over a century until Fern was discovered in 2019. However, she remains the only known member of her species, making her the last of her kind. The last thylacine, also known as Tasmanian tiger, died in Hobart’s Beaumaris Zoo in 1936. Despite efforts to create a thylacine proxy species, it is not a true thylacine.
The passenger pigeon, once so numerous that their flocks would block out the sun, had their population decimated by hunting in the 19th century, and the last one, named after Martha Washington, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. Lonesome George was the last known Pinta Island tortoise, dying in 2012 after no other Pinta Island tortoises were found. Similarly, the last Pyrenean ibex, a female named Celia, was found dead in 2000, having been killed by a fallen tree. Scientists managed to clone Celia and produce a new ibex, but the animal died shortly after birth due to lung defects.
Quaggas were a subspecies of zebra endemic to South Africa and were hunted for their skin and meat. The last known wild quagga died in 1878, and in 1883, the last known quagga—a female at an Amsterdam zoo—died. Heath hens were a subspecies of prairie chickens that went extinct in the 1930s, and the male heath hen had no one to court and was last seen in 1932.
While animals are the most well-known examples of endlings, plants can also be affected. The last of the Hyophorbe amaricaulis palm tree species reside in the Curepipe Botanic Gardens in Mauritius, and it may be the next living thing from the remote island to disappear.
These endlings represent a tragic loss of biodiversity and are reminders of the importance of conservation efforts. We must work together to protect vulnerable species and their habitats before they reach the brink of extinction. It is up to us to make changes in our daily lives that can help preserve our planet’s biodiversity for generations to come.
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